UK has struggled mightily with the back half of the schedule, but luckily they’ve got a chance to turn it around tonight against an overmatched Charlotte team at home. The Cats have to look sharp in the last tune-up game before next weekend’s matchup against Louisville. Drew Barker takes over the quarterback reigns, and will be looking for a strong outing to secure his spot again as the starter for next week. Pat Towles will be anxiously waiting for his chance on the sideline, however, if Barker looks shaky. The Cats need more defensive pressure in the backfield, and a matchup against a weak offense is exactly what the doctor prescribed. Let’s take a look at some things UK will need to accomplish against Charlotte today, to build on for next week’s rivalry game.
Drew Barker’s presence, active early and often
Luckily for Drew, Charlotte is on a losing streak of their own. They’ve dropped eight straight games coming into today’s game. We couldn’t play a more perfect team in his first career start. Barker should have a fair amount of responsibility lifted off his shoulders if Boom Williams and the run game sre successful today against the 49ers. Charlotte gives up 35 points a game on average, good enough for 109th in the nation. They haven’t really played anyone either, so that’s telling as to how bad this team actually is. They got blown out at MTSU by 61 points this season. Accurate throws, quick decisions, and getting the offense in a rhythm are the keys for Barker to be successful today, but honestly I think we could even throw Reese in there and still be fine today if we had to.
Can we get a sack today?
UK hasn’t had a quarterback sack in the last two weeks. We had just one sack three weeks ago when we played Tennessee. They have not been getting pressure in the backfield, and the Cats are allowing opposing quarterbacks too much time to throw the ball. We gave up over 300 passing yards to the 115th best FBS offense in the nation, Vanderbilt.
Even with the best secondary in the nation, if you aren’t getting pressure off the line, receivers are going to find ways to get open eventually. Freddie Maggard’s comparative post of this season’s and last season’s defensive statistics showcased the sack struggles UK has faced this season with the absence of Dupree and Z on the ends. Alongside that, Matt Elam has done nothing for Kentucky since Melvin Lewis went out. He doesn’t look like he is where he needs to be, and that has been one of the biggest tales of the tape as to why UK is ranked last in sacks in the entire conference. The other reason being the major absences of Hatcher and Flannigan at different parts of the season. D-line has to step up big today.
Catch. The. Ball.
Receiver drops have been prevalent in every game during the losing streak, but that can’t be the case this week against a weak opponent. UK should be able to excel offensively against the 49ers and our receivers need a big game to gain their confidence back at a crucial point in the year. Really, there isn’t too much to rant on about, just catch the damn ball and move the chains on early downs. Stoops has preached that we have to execute, and I expect the receivers to hold up their end of that deal today. It’s about time that we see some consistency in the catches department.
Boom Williams 1,000 yards watch
Boom is 312 yards from being the first player in the program since 2007 to break the 1,000 yards rushing barrier. He currently sits at 678 yards for the season, despite missing a game due to poor attitude and another due to injury. Williams has run for over 100 yards in half the games he has played in this season (4/8 games), and has the potential to bust out two more before the season is over. Will today’s performance allow him to break down the remaining yardage to a reasonable amount for the UL game, where he ran for 126 and added two scores in PJCS last season against the Cards. Either way, Boom should have a big night against Charlotte.
Here’s a little pre-game message from Boom: “L’s Down but its #BBN 4ever.”